I waited all week for Hoops Mania. I found myself doodling V’s in my notebook like a girl with a crush. My friends made fun of me, saying "it’s just Hoops Mania." But there’s so much more to it than just Hoops Mania. It’s a new year, it’s the new players, it’s the return of our team and the annual surge in Villanova pride. It’s a baptism for the freshmen and a reaffirmation of faith for the upperclassmen, the advent of our basketball religion.
And the night had it all: dancing, basketball, and TONS of streamers. Where to start? The cheerleaders have new uniforms. The dance team did a great job. Jay Wright is fired up this season, probably more than I’ve seen in my 3 years here.
The 3-point competition was short but sweet. The women’s basketball team took over, with Devon Kane and Megan Pearson standing out. Team JVP won over Team Yacoubou in the end, but credit goes to the ladies for carrying their teams.
In the dunk competition, we were treated to a couple nice slams and a couple unfortunate misses from James Bell, but Dylan Ennis straight killed the competition: an alley-oop through-the-legs dunk with authority. Someone tell him to be careful, he might hit his head on the Pavilion ceiling next year. There’s a lot to look forward to from Ennis next season, it’s a shame we have to wait to see it.
But the most exciting part of Hoops Mania was easily the Blue and White game. There are so many questions to be answered this season, I found myself feeling ripped off that the scrimmage ended so quickly. Arch looks like the guard we want him to be, the kid can flat-out play. His handle is great, and he’s a distributor. On one play he broke down the entire defense and had a beautiful dish to Ochefu (I predict we’ll see a lot of that in the next 3-4 years). Hilliard seems to have a lot of confidence in his shot this year, he definitely impressed. He looked even better than he did during his midseason spurt last year. On the other hand, Ty Johnson didn’t stick out. That’s not to say he won’t be good this season, but last night TJ wasn’t the star.
The big men missed a few shots and looked rough around the edges, but it was because they were battling physically in the paint. Very good sign. And JayVaughn’s weight loss showed, he looked sleeker and lighter on his feet. My concern is that his new body won’t fit his physical style of play, preventing him from bumping defenders out of the way when he drives.
Arguably, Chennault’s guard play was my favorite part of the scrimmage. His experience showed; he manages the game well. He slows the ball down, gets the offense organized, and runs the plays. Chennault will control the tempo well this year. But what piqued my interest was seeing the different styles that each guard had. Arch likes to push the ball, move it around to his teammates, and make plays by breaking down his defender. Chennault has a very straight forward style of play, using set plays to get his teammates open and getting into the body of his defender when he had to. Ty Johnson is somewhere in between those two. Mark my words: Villanova will play at the speed it wants to this year. Teams won’t know how to adjust to the different tempos of the guards, and that’s important late in the game. Hopefully Jay Wright plays his cards right because it seems like he has a loaded hand.
As usual, the musical guest rumors this year did not disappoint: the names of Kanye West, Two Chainz, and Rick Ross were each thrown around until VUhoops broke the news. I even heard one rumor that all three of them were performing together. But what was strange to me was that the students with upper level tickets weren’t allowed to go down in front of the stage, even though that’s how concerts work and there was tons of space. We’re not punks and thugs, we’re good kids who go to Villanova, and we should be treated like it.
All in all, it was a great night. Villanova basketball is back (and the congregation says "Amen"). We got some great teasers of our basketball team, validating some of the new arrivals and showing the improvements of the returning players. In all the excitement, Darrun Hilliard lost his phone in the West Quad and I returned it to him (you’re welcome, Darrun). But now, we wait. I think the Cats will be ready to pounce on the 9th. And for that, I’ll see you in the stands.
P.S. I would love to comment on what recruits were there, but I didn’t get to see a thing because I had upper level tickets, and no matter how many times I tried to peek over the banister in different locations, security immediately told me to find my seat. Again, I’m a responsible Catholic student, not a rebel fighter.